The Role of Slash-and-Burn Agriculture in Transforming Dipterocarp Forest into Imperata Grassland
Slash-and burn agriculture is one of the major causes of forest degradation in the tropics and is widespread in Kalimantan (Spencer 1966, Kartawinata et al. 1981). In the interior of East Kalimantan, some secondary forests have returned to conditions similar to primary dipterocarp forest after 70 years in fallow (Chapter 16, this volume). In the same region, however, fallow forests of predominately pyrophytic tree species have developed simultaneously, as a result of repeated slash-and-burn agriculture. This is swidden agriculture in the narrow sense (Whitten et al. 1987). As long as the area remains fallow, this type of forest regenerates continuously (Kiyono and Hastaniah 1996, 1997). In contrast, logged-over dipterocarp forests degenerate to different communities after slash-and-burn use. The vegetation sometimes containsImperata cylindricagrass.Imperatagrassland is a degenerate plant community found worldwide in the tropics; large areas are found alongside the road between Samarinda and Balikpapan. It is widely believed that repeated slash-and-burn agriculture converts forest intoImperatagrassland. According to our observations, however, slash-and-burn agriculture itself does not seem to allowImperatato form grassland, even when it is practiced with a short fallow period (about five years). Why then do grasslands form in slash-and-burn areas?
KeywordsSecondary Forest Perennial Crop Upland Rice Dipterocarp Forest Swidden Agriculture
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